by George Wolf
After a series of short films, writer/director Thomas Hardiman should have no problem getting noticed with this first feature. Medusa Deluxe is a finely constructed neo-noir mystery that is visually engaging from the opening minutes.
The setting inside a hair styling competition feels unique, full of well-drawn characters, a lively ensemble, and dialog that dances in and out of camp. But a good whodunit also needs a good reason to care who done it, with a feeling of well-earned satisfaction once the big reveal hits.
Hardiman takes us backstage as the stylists and models are prepping for the show, and reeling from the news that Mosca (John Alan Roberts), one of the favorites to win, has been found dead.
And not just dead, but scalped. Yikes.
Cleve (a completely dazzling Clare Perkins) is working on a model’s multi-layered ‘do while leading the discussion about just what the hell is up and worrying about what they’ll all tell the cops. And Mosca’s husband Angel (Luke Pasqualino) still hasn’t been told, so Rene (Darrel D’Silva) is preparing to break that news, along with another secret he’s been keeping.
There’s a lot going on!
Hardiman and cinematographer Robbie Ryan stay just as busy, with a free-flowing, faux single-take approach that’s pulled off with some pretty nifty precision. And while the attention to technical craftsmanship mirrors what’s happening with the hair, you eventually start itching for more substance in this mystery.
The long, tracking shots that follow characters as they walk begin to feel excessive, and resonant moments of character building get upstaged by histrionics. As accusations about bribes and black market Propecia are thrown around, the killer’s unmasking lands as a bit anticlimactic.
There’s little doubt Hardiman has camera skills. When his storytelling catches up, watch out. For now, Medusa Deluxe is an interesting blast of hair-raising madness that could use some more volume.